MINNEAPOLIS - A clinical trial underway at the University of Minnesota and other leading cancer centers is identifying the unique fingerprint of breast cancer tumors, in the hopes of creating faster, more effective treatments.
"It's really trying to address how each woman's tumor is different and to find the right therapy for the tumor," explained Dr. Doug Yee of the U of M's Masonic Cancer Center. "We need to be better and faster. That's what I-SPY 2 is trying to do."
I-SPY 2 TRIAL is an acronym for: Investigation of Serial Studies to Predict Your Therapeutic Response with Imaging And moLecular Analysis 2.
The trial is a way for doctors to validate promising new drugs that are available to help women like R. Lee Penn.
"I learned my diagnosis on July 29," Penn said. "I totally was just a regular person freaking out about having cancer."
Then the U of M chemistry professor got scientific about her Stage 2 breast cancer and enrolled in the I-SPY 2 trial.
"Being in a trial means that maybe I'm getting the magic drug that's going to cure everything," Penn said. "But also, as a scientist, I really like the idea of contributing to the database of knowledge regarding cancer."
"I think we have learned over the past 10-15 years, that if you start to look at the molecular fingerprints of breast cancer, they are all different," Dr. Yee said.
That's why, in I-SPY 2, doctors are sampling the tumor before treatment, identifying the molecular fingerprint and then adding additional medicine they think will eliminate the cancer.
"We want to go beyond the standard of care. One way we are going to do that is, you may receive a drug that has not been used extensively in the treatment of breast cancer," Dr. Yee continued.
"They very carefully analyze your tumor for genes and other features," Penn explained. "And then you are assigned to a class of drugs for your tumor."
For Penn it has meant adding two drugs to standard chemotherapy.
"I can still feel it, but it's smaller," she said. "So my optimism level has jumped significantly."
Even if the tumor disappears from the MRI scans, Penn has decided to have a mastectomy early next year. Still, she's hopeful what is learned during this study will make it possible for women to one day have options other than surgery.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the I-SPY 2 trial is happening at 20 cancer centers across the country. The University of Minnesota has enrolled more than 15 patients. Results from all the cancer centers are being pooled to better understand whether molecular fingerprints of breast cancer tumors can be predictive.
For more information about this specific trail, contact the University of Minnesota at 612-624-2620 or toll free at 888-CANCER MN (888-226-2376).
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